Unexpected PTSD Triggers

A photo was shared in a volunteer group I’m in today of the Snowdrop Room at Kettering General Hospital where Aneurin was born and it completely and utterly floored me. I was sitting in the car whilst Lily was napping scrolling through FB and all of a sudden it was though all the oxygen in my body had disappeared. My brain had interpreted the image before I realised, knowing what it was immediately. It only took a few seconds to catch my breath but that deep, hollow, upside down feeling in my stomach is yet to pass. Moments like that remind me of the first few months of life after Aneurin died, where my body would suddenly remember and it would quite literally bring me to my knees.

My PTSD is bad this week and its trigger was something I had never even considered; sciatica. When I was pregnant with Aneurin the position he was in combined with polyhydramnios put intense pressure on my sciatic nerve. That and SPD left me on crutches from 24 weeks and I was constantly in agony. The second I felt that familiar shooting pain my physical memory triggered and I felt it all.

Seeing the photos of the room seemed to actually make my physical pain worse as well as unlock the PTSD box. I zoomed in on every mm of the images, needing to absorb it all some strange, masochistic way. I had forgotten how physical grief can be. I could smell the room, recall the thick atmosphere inside it, feel the sensation of a contraction and the pressure of my husband’s shoulders beneath my hands. I could see myself peering through the legs and the mess on the bed to catch a glimpse of my baby, irritated that they were so eager to dress him to shield me from seeing his skin so delicate. Things I didn’t know I remembered and such physical recollections I didn’t know existed.

Alongside that is the bizarre bitterness that comes with the wonderful and very necessary updates to the bereavement suite. I’m so glad they’ve opened up the private outside area I spent hours staring at through the grimy windows so parents can take their baby outside but I’m also jealous and sad and angry that I never got the opportunity to do that. My baby never knew sunshine or rain or the summer evening breeze. I never got to breathe in the fresh air with my beautiful baby in my arms. I was confined to a hot, sweaty, dilapidated, clinical room for three days. I had to leave my baby in that room. In a wooden cold cot that looked like a coffin.

I didn’t know I was angry about that. This is one of the hardest things about grief. It’s been nearly four years and my brain is still processing it, it is still unravelling the extent of that trauma and every so often another layer peels back to expose deeper, raw grief. But what do I do with it? Where do I put it? I sob as my second child sleeps, desperately watching for the rise and fall of her chest knowing I’m going to be holding her hand extra tightly when we get out of the car and not letting her venture as far as I would any other day.

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